Southern’s pitching staff doesn’t score many strikeouts.
The Jaguars have whiffed 170 batters this season, the 12th-fewest in the country and second-fewest in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
But that’s OK. In fact, that’s the way coach Roger Cador wants it.
Cador knows if his pitchers, as he says, try to “do too much” by constantly attempting to strike out batters, the Jaguars will lose more often than not. What Southern wants to see is its pitchers keeping the ball low to force more ground balls.
Early in the year, Cador said starters Harold Myles and Daniel Franklin were not listening to him, instead going for strikeout pitches. Like with most problems Southern faced this year, Cador said the players would need to fail doing it their way before coming around to his line of thinking.
Apparently, the Jaguars crossed that line about a month ago.
Cador praised Myles and Franklin for their improvement in the past few weeks — with the exception of a rough start for Franklin last Thursday at Grambling, when he gave up three runs and five hits before Cador pulled him with nobody out in the first inning — and he is much more optimistic about the outlook for the back end of the season.
“They’ve shown improvement. When they don't play guys who stand on top of the plate and drive the ball, they’ll enjoy some success,” Cador said, referring to last weekend's series against Grambling. “(Players) don’t always see it the way we do. We know if they pitch for contact, get up there and make a good pitch, we’ll be in better shape. But they end up trying to throw balls by hitters, and they can’t do it.”
All three starters, including Tyler Robinson, have seen their ERAs drop in the past few weeks.
On March 25, Myles had an 8.03 ERA and an 0-2 record. In four games since, he has improved to a 5.96 ERA, but he is still searching for his first win. Franklin’s drop was only from 6.19 to 6.04 in three games, but he does have a 2-1 record since then.
“I’ve learned that, if I don’t try to do too much, the ball will do what it does, and ground balls will happen and outs will be made,” Myles said.
Southern needs its starting pitchers to succeed more than any other position if it wants to have any hope of making a late run to the postseason.
Cador has little faith in his middle relievers, especially with his most experienced arms, J’Markus George and Justin Freeman, possibly out for the rest of the season with injuries. So the Jaguars need their starters to throw seven to eight innings each night, so they can then hand the ball to closer Troy Lewis or freshman Wilhelm Allen.
Against Texas Southern two weeks ago, Franklin threw 144 pitches, and Myles threw 111.
“We don’t have the depth,” Cador said. “What we’re trying to do is get the ball to Troy and see what happens.”